Suicide is a difficult topic to read about, or even think about, but it is important to have discussions surrounding suicide to raise awareness of its impact and what we as people can do to help prevent suicide. I am sure that you, or someone you know, has been affected by suicide in some way and, unfortunately, suicide is not 100% preventable, but there are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of suicide in someone you know or love.

There are many misconceptions surrounding suicide that need to be cleared up first. The following are some common misconceptions about suicide and why they are incorrect:

  1. A person who doesn’t seem depressed can’t be a suicidal risk

Over half the people who die by suicide suffer from Depression, however a Depressed person doesn’t have to look like the typical “Depressive” to be at risk of dying by suicide. You never know what’s going on in someone’s head.

  1. If a Depressed person appears “better”, their risk of suicide has decreased

A Depressed person who appears to be suddenly “better” can actually be a really bad sign. In a high percentage of suicides, this actually indicated that someone has made the decision to die and feels relieved at having made such a difficult decision.

  1. A person who “has everything in the world” is not at risk to die by suicide

Again, you never know what’s going on in someone’s head, or in their life. Just because they may appear to have everything on the outside doesn’t mean that they’re immune to thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.

  1. People who die by suicide are “crazy”

Even though 90% of people who do die by suicide suffer from a mental illness, suicide is not an act of someone who is “crazy”. High functioning and successful individuals die by suicide just as much as someone labeled as “crazy”.

  1. Suicide is an act of selfishness

This is simply false. Suicide is not an act of selfishness. It’s an act of someone who typically feels as if they are a burden to themselves and others.

  1. Suicide is always somebody’s fault

Suicide is NEVER anybody’s fault, and it’s very, very dangerous to start blaming people for suicide

  1. It’s dangerous to ask someone if they’re thinking about suicide

It’s actually more dangerous NOT to ask someone if they’re thinking of suicide. Asking about suicidal thoughts does not “give them ideas.” Broaching the topic with someone you’re concerned about, may save their life.

You do not want to assume that every Depressed person is thinking of suicide, however there are some warning signs that may indicate they may be thinking of taking their life:

  1. Talking about suicide (“I wish I hadn’t been born”, “I wish I were dead”)
  2. Gaining a means to hurt oneself (buying a gun, stockpiling pills)
  3. Withdrawing from social contact and isolating oneself
  4. Having mood swings
  5. Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence
  6. Feeling trapped and/or hopeless
  7. Increased usage of alcohol/drugs
  8. Change of normal routine, including sleeping and eating habits
  9. Taking part in risky or self-destructive behavior
  10. Giving away belongings and getting affairs in order with no logical explanation
  11. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t see them again
  12. Developing personality changes (ex. extreme anxiety or agitation)

So what can you actually do to help someone you may suspect is thinking of suicide? The following are some steps you can take to help:

  1. Remain calm and relaxed
  2. Ask if he or she is thinking about suicide
  3. If yes, go on to screen for risk (emergency room, or you can call 9-1-1)
  4. Take the intent or threat very seriously
  5. Listen! Listen with a non-judgmental and open ear
  6. Show that you care and say it

You want to make sure to avoid the following:

  1. Do not leave the person alone or let him or her go off on their own
  2. Do not be judgmental; do not argue, debate, or analyze
  3. Do not try to cheer him or her up
  4. Do not try to shock or challenge (“go ahead and do it!”)
  5. Do not accept them saying, “I am okay now” (nobody recovers immediately from suicidality)
  6. Do not be sworn to secrecy

If there is no apparent, immediate danger (and no lethal means in view):

  1. Tell him or her that help is available and you can see that he or she gets it
  2. Let him or her have some space
  3. Try to get him or her to another area in case there are hidden means
  4. Remove car keys, if possible
  5. Call the local crisis center, or 9-1-1

If there is apparent, immediate danger ACT:

  1. Remain calm! This is very important
  2. Say that you are getting help
  3. Call 9-1-1
  4. See that the person receives a psychiatric evaluation (this can be done in a hospital)

The following are some suicide prevention resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Suicide Prevention Resource
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE):
  • Crisis Text Line: text “START” to 741-741
  • To Write Love On Her Arms:
  • The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1
  • Capital EAP: 518-465-3813,

By: Marion White, MHC – LP, EAP Counselor